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EU’s artillery shell promises to Ukraine fall short of reality, investigation finds

An investigation found that the EU’s production capacity for 155 mm artillery shells is at least half of what EU officials have stated.
western-made 155-mm shells combat zone kharkiv oblast rfe/rl 155mm
Western-made 155-mm shells in the combat zone in Kharkiv Oblast. Photo: RFE/RL.
EU’s artillery shell promises to Ukraine fall short of reality, investigation finds

An investigation by RFE/RL’s Skhemy project and a consortium of European journalists has revealed that the European Union’s artillery shell production capacity is significantly lower than officially claimed, impacting Ukraine’s defense capabilities against Russian aggression. As of June 2024, the EU had provided Ukraine with only half of the promised ammunition, and with significant delays.

In March 2024, the European Commission claimed that European production capacity for 155 mm shells had reached 1,000,000 rounds per year by January. However, industry sources suggest the actual capacity is less than 500,000 shells annually.

Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market, stated in June 2024 that EU manufacturers would reach a production capacity of 1.7 million shells per year by the end of 2024. However, a high-ranking source in the European arms industry, speaking anonymously, said the current capacity is only a third of this figure.

The investigation identified several factors contributing to the slow increase in European ammunition production, including a global shortage of gunpowder and explosives, and a lack of funds to finance the industry due to Western governments’ reluctance to sign long-term contracts.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov stated that the current need of the Defense Forces is 200,000 shells per month, a demand that neither the EU nor the US can fully meet.

The investigation also found that not all shells produced in the EU are sent to Ukraine, as EU countries keep some ammunition for themselves to replenish their own stocks and meet NATO requirements.

Despite these challenges, Ukraine is working on its own artillery shell production and has completed testing of its 155mm NATO-standard shells, with plans to start mass production in the second half of 2024.

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